What Is The Bible
Before we discuss how the Bible was assembled, we should understand what the Bible itself actually is. Because of the way Bibles are published, it is often seen as a singular book. However, the Bible itself is a collection of writings. With many different styles of writing and genres, the Bible is better understood as an anthology of writings that tell a singular and grand overarching story .
Specifically, the Bible contains 66 distinct books under two major divisions. The first 39 books of the Bible were mostly written in the Hebrew language and are commonly referred to as the “Old Testament.” The second set of 27 books was originally written in the Greek language and is called the “New Testament.” These 66 books span stories that occurred over at least 4,000 years of human history, with as many as 40 different human authors. Diverse cultures, backgrounds, writing styles, and genres were used to write the Bible.
So how did this all come together? How were the writings of 40 different authors over thousands of years gathered into one book?
Who Wrote The Bible: Prophets
Wikimedia CommonsThe prophet Isaiah
The next texts to examine when investigating who wrote the Bible are those of the biblical prophets, an eclectic group who mostly traveled around the various Jewish communities to admonish people and lay curses and sometimes preach sermons about everybodys shortcomings.
Some prophets lived way back before the Golden Age while others did their work during and after the Babylonian captivity. Later, many of books of the Bible attributed to these prophets were largely written by others and were fictionalized to the level of Aesops Fables by people living centuries after the events in the books were supposed to have happened, for example:
Wikimedia CommonsThe prophet Jeremiah
Legacy And Impact Of The Bible
The sheer diversity of literature in the Bible is one of the secrets of its continuing popularity through the centuries. There is something for all moods and many different cultures. Its message is not buried in religious jargon only accessible to either believers or scholars, but reflects the issues that people struggle with in daily life. Despite their different emphases, all its authors shared the conviction that this world and its affairs are not just a haphazard sequence of random coincidences, but are the forum of God’s activity – a God who is not remote or unknowable, but a personal being who can be known by ordinary people.
Melvyn Bragg believes the King James version of the Bible, first published in 1611, has had a profound effect on human history over the last 400 years.
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Why Does The Kjv Differ From The Niv
The reason the King James version differ from the NASV and the NIV in anumber of readings is because it is translated from a different text-type thanthey are.
Does The New Testament Claim To Be Inspired
The first thing we should note is that the New Testament authors claim to be inspired. Its not that Paul just gave advice, and then much later Christians so revered his writings that they began to regard them as divinely inspired. No, they self-consciously claim divine inspiration for themselves as apostles of Christ.
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Books Written By Associates Of The Apostles
The details of the historical process by which these books came to be counted as part of Scripture by the early church are scarce, but Mark, Luke, and Acts were commonly acknowledged very early, probably because of the close association of Mark with the apostle Peter, and of Luke with the apostle Paul.
Paul even calls a portion of Lukes gospel Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:17-18:
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching for the scripture says, You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain, and, The laborer deserves his wages.
The first quotation from Scripture is found in Deuteronomy 25:4, but the second quotation, The laborer deserves his wages, is found nowhere in the Old Testament. It does occur, however, in Luke 10:7 .
So here we have Paul apparently quoting a portion of Lukes gospel and calling it Scripture. We see evidence that very early in the history of the church the writings of the New Testament began to be accepted as part of the canon.
Similarly, Jude apparently was accepted by virtue of the authors connection with James and the fact that he was the brother of Jesus.
The Roman Catholic Church Declared The Apocrypha As Canon
In 1546, at the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church officially declared the Apocrypha to be part of the canon . The Council of Trent was the response of the Roman Catholic Church to the teachings of Martin Luther and the rapidly spreading Protestant Reformation, and the books of the Apocrypha contain support for the Catholic teaching of prayers for the dead and justification by faith plus works, not by faith alone.
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Old Testament: The Single Author Theory
The Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, narrates the history of the people of Israel over about a millennium, beginning with Gods creation of the world and humankind, and contains the stories, laws and moral lessons that form the basis of religious life for both Jews and Christians. For at least 1,000 years, both Jewish and Christian tradition held that a single author wrote the first five books of the BibleGenesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomywhich together are known as the Torah and the Pentateuch . That single author was believed to be Moses, the Hebrew prophet who led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and guided them across the Red Sea toward the Promised Land.
Yet nearly from the beginning, readers of the Bible observed that there were things in the so-called Five Books of Moses that Moses himself could not possibly have witnessed: His own death, for example, occurs near the end of Deuteronomy. A volume of the Talmud, the collection of Jewish laws recorded between the 3rd and 5th centuries A.D., dealt with this inconsistency by explaining that Joshua likely wrote the verses about Moses death.
Rembrandt van Rijn, painting of Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law, 1659.
That’s one opinion among many, says Joel Baden, a professor at Yale Divinity School and author of The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewing the Documentary Hypothesis. But they’re already asking the questionwas it possible or not possible for to have written them?
New Testament: Who Wrote The Gospels
Just as the Old Testament chronicles the story of the Israelites in the millennium or so leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ, the New Testament records Jesuss life, from his birth and teachings to his death and later resurrection, a narrative that forms the fundamental basis of Christianity. Beginning around 70 A.D., about four decades after Jesuss crucifixion , four anonymously written chronicles of his life emerged that would become central documents in the Christian faith. Named for Jesuss most devoted earthly disciples, or apostlesMatthew, Mark, Luke and Johnthe four canonical Gospels were traditionally thought to be eyewitness accounts of Jesuss life, death and resurrection.
12th-13th century depiction of evangelists Luke and Matthew writing the Gospels.
But for more than a century, scholars have generally agreed that the Gospels, like many of the books of the New Testament, were not actually written by the people to whom they are attributed. In fact, it seems clear that the stories that form the basis of Christianity were first communicated orally, and passed down from generation to generation, before they were collected and written down.
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The Old Testament Was Already Put Together By The Time Of Jesus
- M.A., Christian Studies, Union University
- B.A., English Literature, Wheaton College
Determining when the Bible was written poses challenges because it isn’t a single book. It’s a collection of 66 books written by more than 40 authors over more than 2,000 years.
So there are two ways to answer the question, “When was the Bible written?” The first is to identify the original dates for each of the Bible’s 66 books. The second, the focus here is to describe how and when all 66 books were collected in a single volume.
Biblical Understanding & 19th
The stories which the Bible relates were considered to be historically accurate and entirely unique until the mid-19th century CE when archaeologists discovered the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. The Bible, in fact, was considered the oldest book in the world until much older literature was discovered which told the same stories, in an earlier form, than those found in the Bible. Scholars had long known that the Bible was a compilation which had been gathered from earlier works and authorized under the Bishops of Rome but no one seemed to be aware that those works were drawn from even earlier pieces. No one could read Egyptianhieroglyphics until Jean Jacques Champollion deciphered them and the literature of Sumer was completely unknown to the modern world.
In the mid-19th century CE museums and publications sent archaeologists from the west to the region of Mesopotamia to find physical evidence that would substantiate biblical narratives. The 19th century CE was an interesting period for religion in the west, especially Christianity, in that people became more vocal in their criticism of the faith and new ideas and philosophies provided for acceptable alternatives to religious belief. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection was published in 1859 CE and challenged the traditionally held belief in the creation of humanity by an all-powerful God.
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The Text Becomes The Teacher
By the time of the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C., and the return of the Jewish exiles to Palestine, the core of the Hebrew Bible was completed. The very language of Scripture changed as society became more textualized. Most tellingly, the Hebrew word torah, which originally meant “teaching, instruction,” increasingly began to refer to a written text, “the Torah of Moses,” in the Second Temple period .
The tension between the authority of the oral tradition and the written word, the teacher and the text, continued in the Second Temple period among the various Jewish groups. The priestly aristocracy controlled the temple library and the sacred texts. They were literate elites whose authority was threatened by the oral tradition. Groups like the Pharisees, in contrast, were largely composed of the lay classes. They invested authority in the teacher and the oral tradition.
Still, a fierce ideology of orality would persist in rabbinic Judaism.
Both early Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism, which grew out of the lay classes, struggled with the tension between the sacred text and the authority of the oral tradition in the aftermath of the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. Although they acknowledged the authority of the written Scriptures, they also asserted the authority of the living voice of the teacher.
Is It Indeed Gods Word Or Composed Of Mere Traditions Of Men
God decided to disclose His will to mankind through the written word. The Bible has been translated into almost every language under the sun.
Many conservative Hebrew and Christian scholars believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. The internal evidence of Scripture has proved very commanding. Scripture simply rings true when one reads the books of the Bible with the right spirit and attitude .
Archaeological finds have demonstrated the accuracy of Scripture again and again, much to the consternation of critics. We regularly report on such discoveries in the “God, Science and the Bible” feature in this magazine, and you can find much more proof in our Bible study aid booklet Is the Bible True? as well as our article reprint series The Bible and Archaeology.
So how did we receive this Word? How did God choose to provide it to us? Let’s notice a few examples.
In the Hebrew Scriptures , Moses climbed Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments directly from God, which God declared to the people of Israel .
God spoke directly to Moses face to face (Numbers 12:7-8Numbers 12:7-8 My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all my house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?
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Who Decided Which Books To Include In The Bible
In his best-selling novel, “The Da Vinci Code,” Dan Brown wrote that the Bible was assembled during the famous Council of Nicea in 325 C.E., when Emperor Constantine and church authorities purportedly banned problematic books that didn’t conform to their secret agenda.
Except that’s not how it really went. “The Da Vinci Code” was fiction, but Brown wasn’t the first to credit the Council of Nicea with deciding which books to include in the Bible. Voltaire, writing in the 18th century, repeated a centuries-old myth that the Bible was canonized in Nicea by placing all of the known books on a table, saying a prayer and seeing which illegitimate texts fell to the floor.
In truth, there was no single church authority or council that convened to rubber stamp the biblical canon , not at Nicea or anywhere else in antiquity, explains Jason Combs, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University specializing in ancient Christianity.
“Dan Brown did us all a disservice,” says Combs. “We don’t have evidence that any group of Christians got together and said, ‘Let’s hash this out once and for all.'”
What evidence scholars do have in the form of theological treatises, letters and church histories that have survived for millennia points to a much longer process of canonization. From the first through the fourth centuries and beyond, different church leaders and theologians made arguments about which books belonged in the canon, often casting their opponents as heretics.
How Did We Get The Bible
The universe and all in it screams, ‘There is a God!’ , but theuniverse cannot tell us how it was made, its history, how we should live our lives,or about when its Creator came to Earth.
For that, God has given us His Word, the Bible. Because of the Word of God, we knowthat God created all things in six normal-length days, that it was originally a’very good’ place, and that the first man, Adam, disobeyed the Creator, thus corruptingthe entire creation . We know that Jesus Christ came to Earth to save His people from their sins, died, was buried, androse again on the third day, according to the Scriptures .
Gods Word Should Have An Exalted Tone
Since God is holy , we would expect a book that comes from Him to have an exalted moral tone. That is exactly what one finds. Its precepts love your neighbor as yourself and do unto others as you would have them do unto you have amazed millions of people down through the ages.
No human philosophy or book of purely human origin can boast of such high moral standards.
The Canon We Have Today Was Finalized In The Fourth Century Ad
In A.D. 367 the Thirty-ninth Paschal Letter of Athanasius contained an exact list of the twenty-seven New Testament books we have today. This was the list of books accepted by the churches in the eastern part of the Mediterranean world.
Thirty years later, in A.D. 397, the Council of Carthage, representing the churches in the western part of the Mediterranean world, agreed with the eastern churches on the same list. These are the earliest final lists of our present-day canon.
At the end of the last chapter in the final book in the biblical canon, John writes:
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.Revelation 22:18-19
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Books Of The Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew canon contains 24 books, one for each of the scrolls on which these works were written in ancient times. The Hebrew Bible is organized into three main sections: the Torah, or Teaching, also called the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses the Neviim, or Prophets and the Ketuvim, or Writings. It is often referred to as the Tanakh, a word combining the first letter from the names of each of the three main divisions. Each of the three main groupings of texts is further subdivided. The Torah contains narratives combined with rules and instructions in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The books of the Neviim are categorized among either the Former Prophetswhich contain anecdotes about major Hebrew persons and include Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kingsor the Latter Prophetswhich exhort Israel to return to God and are named for Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12 Minor Prophets . The last of the three divisions, the Ketuvim, contains poetry , theology, and drama in Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs , Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.